Catholic universities rescind honorary degrees amid growing Cosby scandal

Embattled comedian Bill Cosby suffered another blow Thursday, this time to his academic credentials, as both Marquette and Fordham universities rescinded his honorary degrees.

Although the revocations are purely symbolic, they carry a certain significance in that they mark the first time that either university has rescinded an honorary degree, according to the Associated Press.

Dozens of women have come forward in recent months to accuse Cosby of sexually assaulting them, and while he has not been charged with a crime, the accumulating evidence against him has seemingly secured his conviction in the court of public opinion—a fact that both Jesuit institutions alluded to while announcing their actions.

“By his own admission, Mr. Cosby engaged in behaviors that go entirely against our university’s mission and the Guiding Values we have worked so hard to instill on our campus,” Marquette President Michael Lovell and Provost Daniel Myers wrote in a press release on the school’s website, most likely referring to the comedian’s admission that he provided Quaaludes to several women with whom he was having extramarital affairs in the past.

Lovell and Myers said they presented a resolution to the Board of Trustees to rescind the degree Marquette awarded Cosby in 2013 following “extensive conversations with campus leaders and faculty members who showed overwhelming support for the action,” adding that the degree was rescinded immediately after the Board passed the resolution.

Fordham asserted in a statement provided to Campus Reform that similar motivations led President Joseph McShane, SJ, to propose a resolution of his own, which was unanimously approved by the school’s Board of Trustees.

“In 2001, Fordham University presented comedian and actor Bill Cosby with an honorary doctor of fine arts degree, not least because of the significant role he played in breaking the color barrier in American television and popular culture, and his position as an inspirational figure for millions of African Americans,” the statement explains, noting that “there was no public awareness of the allegations of rape against him” at the time.

Since then, however, Fordham said it has become clear that Cosby’s actions are “both unambiguously dishonorable and have a deep impact,” pointing out that, “By his own admission, Mr. Cosby’s sexual exploitation of women was premeditated and ongoing.

“As a Jesuit university, Fordham could no longer stand behind the degree it had bestowed upon Mr. Cosby, hence this unprecedented action,” the statement concludes.

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